NICE issues final guidance on Herceptin

In collaboration with the Press Association

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has announced its final guidance on the availability of trastuzumab (known by the trade name Herceptin) in the NHS and has recommended its use for early stage breast cancer. 

NICE said Herceptin is recommended for women with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer, except where there are concerns about the woman's heart function. 

The news was welcomed by Professor John Toy, medical director at Cancer Research UK. Professor Toy explained that Herceptin is a treatment that targets the HER2 protein found on the cells of some breast cancers and that about one in four women with breast cancer have the HER2 protein on their breast cancer cells and could therefore benefit from the treatment. 

However, he issued a word of caution, saying: "Herceptin is still a relatively new treatment so clinical experience will need to be gained for some years yet before the drug's full effects are known. 

"Herceptin doesn't seem to have many severe side effects but it can affect the heart so it isn't recommended for women with certain heart problems. And women having Herceptin for early breast cancer must have heart tests before they start on the drug and then throughout their treatment." 

NICE recommends that Herceptin is given at three-week intervals for one year for women with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer following surgery, chemotherapy (neoadjuvant or adjuvant) and radiotherapy (if applicable).